Turn on, tune in or drop out? As Larson-Juhl commercials debut on national television, experts weigh the benefits of advertising on the small screen

Turn on, tune in or drop out? As Larson-Juhl commercials debut on national television, experts weigh the benefits of advertising on the small screen

Elisabeth Butler

Frame manufacturer Larson-Juhl of Norcross, Ga., broke new round April 12 when it aired its first TV commercial.

“Custom frame the beauty of your home” is the tagline for the two 30-second ads, which were designed to market directly to consumers. The spots run only on Fine Living Network, which will show the ads about 40 times per week. The ads will run in rotation with four weeks on and six weeks off.

“We wanted to plant a seed of awareness nationally about the power of custom framing,” said Steve McKenzie, president and chief executive officer with LarsonJuhl. “We feel a real responsibility to make sure the industry continues to grow.”

The television spots marked a new extension of Larson-Juhl’s consumer campaign, which started in 1996. Until now, the flame company only advertised directly to consumers through print ads.

McKenzie said Larson-Juhl had planned to make a foray into television ads for a while, but it waited to find the right fit. Advertising on national television channels that target a variety of demographics gave too little focus, McKenzie said. People who watch Fine Living on television match the Larson-Juhl demographics well, he said.

Along with the television ads, Larson-Juhl also launched an Internet presence with Fine Living. Fine Living sends its online newsletters to more than 850,000 subscribers, and Larson-Juhl will become part of that campaign, too.

Larson-Juhl wants to reach college-educated homeowners who are married and consider themselves to be trendsetters. “It’s absolutely a perfect target audience for custom-framing customers,” McKenzie said.

More than 20 million households receive the Fine Living Network on their cable service. Fine Living is one of several lifestyle channels owned and operated by the E.W. Scripps Company, which trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SSE Scripps also runs Food Network, HGTV and Do it Yourself Network.

McKenzie wouldn’t disclose how much the company spent to produce and air the commercials. His company hopes the ads will reach trendsetters who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up home-decorating magazines and see the Larson-Juhl print ads.

The Larson-Juhl commercials feature custom frames alongside designer furniture and decorations from two different styles. One spot shows a warm Tuscan look with predominant amber and rust colors. The other features a modern look with simple designs in black white and silver.

Frames for each of the suites float through the pictures, and both spots feature instrumental music commissioned by Larson-Juhl.

“We’re saying that custom framing really brings it all together,” McKenzie said. Company officials hope the music and motion all express romance and taste that print ads couldn’t convey.

The ads end with the tagline and a reference to larsonjuhl.com. By the end of the summer, selected retail shops will be able to co-op the ads and display their names and contact information on the last frame of the spots. The company will give the commercial to the retail shops for free, and each store would then pay for its own airtime on local television.

“If they get excited about custom framing, we can give them the shops they need to make it happen,” McKenzie said. While most framing stores in the United States carry some Larson-Juhl products, the company will choose which stores will be able to use the commercials for advertising.

McKenzie wouldn’t say what criteria the retail shops would have to meet to be able to use the Larson-Juhl commercials or how many stores would be able to coop the ads. Retail owners interested in using the Larson-Juhl commercials would start the process by contacting their regional Larson-Juhl representative.

Even with a nearly fully produced commercial in hand, many smaller retail shops might not be able to afford television advertising at all.

Kristian Sonnier, a senior public-relations account executive with Peter A. Mayer Advertising in New Orleans, advises companies about their marketing options, He said the price of television is usually prohibitive for companies that want to target a niche demographic.

“They get sticker shock and say maybe we should just do [public relations],” Sonnier said.

He suggested custom-frame shops consider Finding local artists to endorse their work. Using print ads or signs featuring the partnership between a locally renowned artist and a retail shop would likely cost less than the TV advertising and reach more of the potential market, Sonnier said.

Lisa Perret, a senior media planner with Peter A. Mayer, said companies should keep several general rules in mind before they buy TV air time.

First, try to buy ad time in advance to keep cost down. Second, remember that special TV events, such as political campaigns, awards shows and the Olympics, increase the cost of TV advertising. Finally, Perret said to keep in mind that the second and fourth quarters of the year usually have higher advertising demand that will drive costs higher.

Retail-owners ultimately must make up their own minds about whether television advertising is worth it, said Gary Bells, a spokesman for nonprofit Television Bureau of Advertising in New York.

There’s no one answer to that. That’s a gut call, really. They have to figure out how much sales are going to increase because of the ads,” Belis said.

Michael Seewald, owner of Seewald’s Art Gallery and Award Custom Picture Framing in Encinitas, Calif., said the Larson-Juhl offer might appeal to large retail-store chains more than single-store owners. For them, he said, it might not be worth the cost.

“Television advertising is only advantageous if you’re big-time with a big budget,” he said. He opened his shop 20 years ago and offers custom framing as a secondary service to original art retail. “It wouldn’t make sense for a small guy.”

SOURCES

Larson-Juhl, (770) 279-5379

Peter A. Mayer Advertising, (504) 581-7191

Seewald’s Art Gallery/Award Custom Picture Framing, (760) 633-1351

Television Bureau of Advertising, (212) 486-1111

TV Tips

* Find local artists to endorse your shop.

* Buy ad time an advance to Keep costs down.

* Remember that special TV events, such as political campaigns or awards shows, increase the cost of advertising.

* Keep in mind that the second and fourth quarters of the year have higher advertising demand, which drives costs upward.

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